Now that Memorial Day is over, it’s time for most of us to go back to work. And for some members of the state legislature, it’s time to go back to meddling in local affairs.
Such is the case with a bill that could be heard on the Senate floor today. Senate Bill 674, introduced last week by Senate leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, and Sen. Deanna Ballard, R-Wilkes, both of whom also represent Surry County, would make the three Surry County boards of education races partisan.
The boards are Elkin City Schools, Mount Airy City Schools and Surry County Schools.
Will it surprise anyone to learn that all three boards oppose this action? In fact, the three boards held a first-time-ever joint meeting in April, together signing a resolution to “oppose any legislation changing the manner of election of any one or more of these boards of education from nonpartisan to partisan,” the Journal’s Richard Craver reported last week.
Other governing bodies, including the town of Elkin Board of Commissioners, were unanimously opposed to partisan elections, also, Elkin Mayor Sam Bishop told the Journal.
“Obviously, they still want to move forward with their partisan agenda,” Bishop said.
Not only do they want to, but they scorn those who feel otherwise.
Sen. Jerry Tillman, R-Randolph, said during last week’s Rules and Operations meeting that “if the school boards don’t want it (partisan elections), it must be a darn good idea.”
Why is that, sir? Why would Surry County school boards be opposed to darn good ideas?
What a cynical and insulting attitude. Tillman may have thought he was joking, but he was doing so at the expense of school board members who work hard for the good of the students in their charge.
The Republican-led Surry County Board of Commissioners voted 3-1 to support the bill in April. Do they share Tillman’s view?
The bill would go into effect with the 2020 election, requiring candidates for school boards to state a party when they file for office, which would then appear on the ballot. If the bill passes, board vacancies would be filled from nominees made by the departing member’s party.
As if there’s not enough partisanship in our famously purple state.
Many local elections, especially in smaller communities, run nonpartisan elections, understanding that practical solutions are preferable to political agendas. School boards in the state, by a wide majority, reject partisan elections.
But Republican state legislators have been attempting for several years now to change that.
This is just another example among so many of a heavy-handed Republican-led legislature trying to put its thumb on the scales to influence elections in its favor.
And another example of the same legislature abandoning its “local authority is best” philosophy when it thinks it can find a political advantage.
We need more opportunities to put aside party loyalties and work together for the good of our communities. Members of our state legislature should be working to heal our divides, not make them more visible and contentious. That should include allowing communities to run nonpartisan elections if they so choose.
This bill should be crushed.